Pieter Boskma

‘I should be grateful’

Pieter Boskma is a cosmic poet and has been since his first collections: a wide panoply of verse full of ecstatic moments, metaphysical revelations, idyllic and elegaic flushes, his work contains it all.

Cosmic poets are rather thin on the ground in the Netherlands and so they immediately stand out, like Herman Gorter and Hendrik Marsman in their days. Boskma too is an exceptional phenomenon; no poet in the Netherlands can be swept along so intensely by mysticism, magic and the overwhelming impact of reality.

He is not a philosophical or psychological poet but a singer who is not averse to myth. When he is dealing with love and eroticism, for example, it is as if the whole earth is at stake. He is also quite happy to talk about ‘the Girl’, a kind of prototype of the admired and desired woman, a real muse. But however convincing his lyricism about nature and (wo)mankind may be, he also has a sense of humour that occasionally cuts those exalted feelings and blazing forces down to size and brings his stampeding thoughts to heel.

One of his most impressive collections is The Earthly Comedy (2002), a huge ‘novel in verse’ that vies with the great poetry of the past. The death of his wife inspired the impressive mourning collection Dying Bloom (2010), followed by the ecstatic song of spring Human Hand (2012) in which he brings a new wife, Hera, to life. In it, between the cosmic acts, he sits on a terrace and experiences ‘nothing but charm and pleasant travel blues’, indicating that even the Netherlands’ most unconstrained of poets’ has his more restrained moments.

Powerful imagination, lyrical daring, melancholy and eroticism: Boskma is dancing the same tightrope as Gorter in his sensitivist period.

NRC Handelsblad

Boskma is not only a Romantic poet, a poet of longing, but is definitely also socially engaged in his diatribes against the spirit of the age and the rise of fundamentalism.



It still feels strange getting up in the morning without love,
pushing onwards with a slight shiver through the loveless day
and going to bed at night with nothing changed.

The thing that makes it bearable and keeps you going,
giving you a smile and an erection at dawn’s first light,
guiding you through darkest Dantean woods on your way –

to have lost the very thing that tells you you’re alive.
And it’s still strange that my verses keep on coming.
It seems they are indifferent to how I’m doing.

Sometimes they even bring on a woman in my dreams,
I should be grateful, because it’s written here -
my work makes me; I am more and more what I make.

The perfect balance and disinterestedness of such a thing,
a self-contained process of beauty and fulfillment
which suddenly shows up out of nowhere like a kiss.

After our ashes are scattered, we’re left with this.

(Translation by Donald Gardner)

Pieter Boskma

Pieter Boskma (b. 1956), a Frisian by birth, studied various languages, East Asian art history and anthropology between 1977 and 1984. He made his début in 1984 with the privately published collection Virus, virus and at the end of the 1980s joined the Maximums, a group of poets calling for more…

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I should be grateful (2016). Poetry.


11 Poets from Holland


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